A Student’s Civic Duty

MacKenzie Guynn Ever since the founding of the United States, there has been debate surrounding citizenship and a citizen’s duties. Gradually, the civic duty of voting was expanded into various groups as the worldview shifted. It was a novelty, a sacred right even, to be able to vote and have a voice in the government. Maybe this was due to the fact that there were more people actively trying to dictate who could and could not cast a ballot. But is that the only reason why young voters have decreased over the past few decades? Or do we not understand what it means to vote? As the political season heats up in preparation for the gubernatorial and congressional elections in November, almost all forms of media are saturated with ads written for or against any given candidate. And, of course, once they appear on the screen, there is some kind of input from somebody in the room. I, as many of us are, am used to tuning out these declarations and waiting for the episode of Modern Family to come back on.     Approximately half of our current student body will be eligible to vote in the November elections, but how many will or already have voted? From what I can tell, many aren’t planning on voting. The main reason for this is not because they think it’s unnecessary. In fact, most believe that they should. Instead, the main obstacle to voting is that they either don’t know how or believe it will take too much time. Benny Cartwright, a junior who is turning eighteen before November, says, “if they want me to vote, they should make it easier. If you tell me how to vote, then I will.” Of those who want to vote, the reasoning behind it varies. For junior Michael Davis, family was a large proponent to him registering and casting his vote: “They made it easy for me to vote by sending me links to register. I wanted to vote, but I probably wouldn’t have otherwise.” Although the outcome is different for Michael than it was for Benny, the point still stands that registering to vote seems difficult and time-consuming for many students.  Additionally, senior Lena Hoplamazian wants to vote because she sees “free and fair elections [as] the greatest form of agency the people have in a functioning democracy.” She states: “I believe it can affect change greater than any one politician or policy, but on the most basic level, I care about the issues our country faces, I have opinions on how those issues should be addressed, and I have the opportunity for those opinions to be represented and realized. If I fail to vote, I not only surrender my right to proper representation, but I fail to actively participate in our democracy. I become passive.” In recent years, organizations specifically designed to get young people voting have sprouted up everywhere. And yet, only an estimated 50% of eligible young people voted in the 2016 general election. Which is why, while I can’t be sure, Lena is a vast minority both at Latin and in the United States. Young people have started to see voting as laborious and time-consuming, rather than a right and duty that millions of people have fought, and still are fighting, for. At Latin, political education is mainly centered around political systems and ideologies. With that said, I have always felt that the message to vote was always lurking somewhere near, slightly below the surface. Speakers have come in and told us how important it is that we vote, including one recently. Considering we have been given all the right tools, both in and out of school, why is it that our political voice isn’t stronger? I will say that until you are internally driven to vote, voting will seem to be a task that is not worth your time. ]]>